Parish government officials discuss Parkway Pipeline

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Washington Parish government is closely monitoring the progress of the Parkway Pipeline project and looking forward to the economic benefits to the parish that could come with it.

Public Works Director Leo Lucchesi said the project involves running a 16-inch pipe that will carry diesel or gasoline fuel from Norco to Collins, Miss., with about 25 miles of piping running underground through the eastern side of Washington Parish, just west of Bogalusa.

“That will complete a pipeline from Louisiana all the way up to the Washington, D.C. area,” he said.

Work on the Lake Pontchartrain portion of the project, which involved running pipeline under the body of water, is essentially wrapped up, Lucchesi said. The 141-mile pipeline is targeted to be in service by September, he said.

Lucchesi said Kinder Morgan, which formed Parkway Pipeline in partnership with Valero, came to the parish government in summer 2012 to begin the process of obtaining a permit to cross parish rights of way. That permit has been paid for, and the pipeline will be crossing 20 parish roads, he said.

Residences will also be crossed by the pipeline, and Lucchesi said lease agreements are between the company and the private landowners.

Actual construction in the parish is expected to begin in May, Lucchesi said. The pipe will be run underground, so the construction should not have much of an impact, if any, on roadway traffic. The pipe will be put in place through a process called open cutting, he said.

“They jack the pipe under the road, so all you will see in some areas are some pits where they need to work through as they jack the pipe from one pit to another,” he said.

Donna Alonzo, parish finance director, said the most noticeable aspect of the construction process will likely be the land clearing that will take place along the strip where work is being done. Markers will be placed along the way to alert any would-be excavators to the presence of the pipe, Lucchesi said, adding the company has been asked to keep at least 6 feet under the parish roads when completing their directional boring process.

Kinder Morgan is currently in negotiations to set up a laydown yard in the parish to store pipe. The company, Lucchesi said, has identified an ideal location for the facility and is “close to an agreement.” Some welding and fabricating of the piping would take place at the laydown yard, as well as deliveries to supply construction crews with materials, he said.

Alonzo said the company is a “very community minded” one and provides funding for youth-oriented and environmental-type projects through its Kinder Morgan Foundation. She said the company has indicated it would like to take on a major project in the parish concerning education or recreation, but the details have yet to be worked out.

The company recently made donations to Friends of Pelican Park and Fontainebleau State Park in St. Tammany Parish.

Additionally, grants will be offered to local schools by Kinder Morgan through a school-level application process, Alonzo said.

“They like to place a lot of emphasis on education, and they will be offering to each school in the parish a $1,000 to $5,000 grant opportunity each year,” she said.

The pipeline is expected to have an economic impact on the parish. During construction there will be an impact from a significant number of workers living locally and relying upon parish merchants for housing and meals.

Furthermore, Alonzo said, the company estimates the pipeline will generate a little more than $900,000 in ad valorem taxes for parish agencies each year, with the pipeline taxed as an improvement structure. That rate of taxation, Parish President Richard Thomas said, is higher than for a business or residence, and the taxes collected will be spread out, going to agencies like health units, libraries, schools and fire departments, in addition to the parish government.

Any agency along the route that collects taxes — or any taxing body collecting a millage in the area where the pipeline runs through — will benefit, Alonzo said.

Thomas said the parish government has also talked with Kinder Morgan about the possibility of the company building a pumping station in the parish.

“If they put the pumping station in, that’ll actually put some people to work, and it will bring in even more ad valorem taxes,” he said.

Ad valorem taxes are cheaper in Washington Parish than in St. Tammany Parish, which was originally planned as the location for the pumping station.

“That’s the reason they’re looking at it,” he said. “It’s not written in stone, but this is something that’s really been discussed.”

Thomas said the Parkway Pipeline project is a good thing for the parish.

“The pipeline is a great opportunity for Washington Parish, economically,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic.”